How to build a CCIE rack with GNS3 / dynamips — Part 2a, build up the hardware

So here it is….part 2 of my “how-to-build-a-ccie-rack”. In this part I will focus on how to build the server that is used for the GNS3 virtualization. It is one of the major parts of your lab, as the server…

…1st) runs all your routers in gns3/dynamips

…2nd) acts as the console server/access server to get access to the 4 switches

…3rd) is the place where your configs are saved

…4th) is the point where you can get remote access from anywhere in the world even through proxys (optional)

So lets begin:

As mentioned in part 1 we need a server with quite a lot power to run all the virtualized machines and we need at least 3xPCI (standard, no express) slots to run the 3xDLINK DFE 580TX. An we need some USB ports for the USB to RS232 cables, which should not be a problem. With the components..I know they are not the highest perfomance you can get, but focus here were the costs of the server.

As Mainboard I chose an ASRock M3A770DE:

It is quite cheap with about 60$ and it has everything we need for our server.

Then we have the RAM (just look in the specs of the mainboard manual which kind of ram you need)

And the quad core CPU.dual core CPUs are also good but with a quad core you are safe.

Then I bought a graphics adapter…ahm…well it has 512M RAM and an HDMI interface. Definitely not needed,we need that only for attaching a screen to the machine. Well this card was the cheapest I could get in the store where I bought the components :). I just needed to pay attention that it is PCI Express here because I did not want to block one of the normal PCIs.

Then we need a case (does not need to be a server case,can be a desktop or tower too) thats supports the ATX form factor.I got one for free (almost) on ebay…it will not win a design price but thats ok for me though it is not a showcase. Pay attention that your power supply is scaled big enough.

Here is mine (not a beauty queen but heavy and solid 🙂 :

So what else do we need…four USB2Serial adapters. You can buy them also at ebay from sellers located in asia. Only thing is you have to wait…but they are cheap and work fine for our purpose here. Does not matter which type you buy, just pay attention that a driver CD comes with it or that you can download the drivers from the web. As an alternative you can use a USB to 4xSerial Adapter (but they are expensive!), which come into play when you run out of USB ports. Better you buy a cheap USB hub.

Then of course we need to have the possibility to bridge the GNS3 clouds (details are covered in the parts later on) with the physical interfaces of our four catalyst switches. So we need three 4xPort NICs. I prefer the DLink DFE-580TX, because they work fine and are quit cheap (from 20$ to 100$ each, depending on where you buy them). Have a look at ebay…there you will find enough of them :). The four ports are 10/100 HD/FD.

So then lets put all the components together and make them run. Here are the pictures how it is done!

This is my old case. I took a new one some days ago to make the lab look a bit more attractive. Here is the new one!

Here are all the parts that I will build into that case.

Removed the stuff from the old case.

First put the back cover for the ATX into the case. You cant do this when the board is already mounted.

And finally its working!

Within the next ´parts you will see how the server looks like in the rack together with the other components.


About markus.wirth

Living near Limburg in Germany, working as a Network Engineer around Frankfurt am Main.
This entry was posted in How to build a CCIE rack with GNS3 / dynamips, Part 2a and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to How to build a CCIE rack with GNS3 / dynamips — Part 2a, build up the hardware

  1. Congratulations of passing the written exam.

    Why are you needing to use real switches? There is a switching module simulation for the 7200 that works pretty well. There are some hardware intensive functions that don’t work, like spanning a VLAN or or RSPAN, and Etherchannel numbers are limited. I am wondering what functions you are gaining.

    • zool85 says:

      Well in my opinion and I have seen this on many other labs…the switching funcionality of GNS3/dynamips is not that good like it is when its done in hardware. When you use the 3600 series routers in dynamips with the 16 Port ESW module…well you can do spanning-tree etc. but many users experience different types of problems. I personally like to have the ability to have SPAN as a troubleshooting resource, to be able to connect PCs or a Notebook to generate some real traffic etc.
      Hope I have hit your question a little…if not…just give me a post :).


  2. Shane says:

    Thanks for going into detail on this stuff.

    I’ve been meaning to put together my lab for a while and I’ve just finished my dynamips box.
    Really ran into some issues with Intel Motherboard but in the end I got there.

    My Switches are on the way 🙂

  3. ccie99999 says:

    Markus.. where the hell were you able to find DFE-580TX at that price? I’m looking to ebay, even the DFE-570TX and the prices are so high.. can you advice any other vendor for this? Intel?

  4. markus.wirth says:

    Ebay and a little patience is the key here. The 580TX arent really expensive in my eyes…when you compare them to the other devices in your lab. At ebay in Germany you get them for 59€ “buy now” which is a little less than 100$.
    Where do you live and how much are they at your location?


  5. ccie99999 says:

    Hey Markus, thanks for your reply. I’m located in Italy.. last night during a search starting from I’ve found only 580TX from UK or HK and start price was 130 EUR min!! Searching on instead I see a lot of interesting stuff! thanks man! strange that I don’t see DE as international seller from thanks a lot!

  6. Pingback: Instalasi Server untuk GNS3 « Dedyisn's CCIE Passion

  7. I think the admin of this site is genuinely
    working hard for his site, since here every information is quality based stuff.

  8. Barny says:

    What if I don’t have a 4 port WIC card, is there a way just to use the one port and route/trunk it out to an access switch which would be connected to the four switches. via a trunk port..?

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